Hydrochloric Acid Spill at Drilling Site in Bradford, PA

It wasn’t a happy July 4th at the Yoder Unit 1H Marcellus well in Leroy Township (Bradford County), PA. The well, in the process of being drilled by Chief Oil and Gas, experienced a leak of 4,700 gallons of hydrochloric acid from a faulty valve. Most of the acid stayed on the drill pad, but some of it ran off into a local “plunge pool” constructed by Chief and killed some minnows. Fortunately, the acid never reached nearby Towanda Creek and did not create a safety hazard for nearby landowners.

The state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Thursday that it has been overseeing the cleanup of a 4,700-gallon hydrochloric acid spill that occurred on Wednesday afternoon at the Chief Oil and Gas Yoder well pad on Southside Road in Leroy Township.

DEP said the incident caused a minor fish kill.

According to a news release from Daniel Spadoni, community relations coordinator with DEP, the cause of the spill appears to be related to valve failure on a tank holding the acid, but remains under investigation. After the incident was brought to DEP’s attention by Chief, two members of DEP’s Emergency Response Team were dispatched to the site. The well pad is located along Southside Road near the intersection with Crofut Road.

The news release from DEP says “the acid breached containment and flowed off the well pad.”

“Some of the acid was collected in a sedimentation pond, while the remainder flowed through a field and some reached a small tributary to Towanda Creek causing a minor fish kill. Dams were constructed in the tributary before any acid reached Towanda Creek.”

In addition, the news release notes that Chief contractors applied lime to the acid to neutralize it prior to recovery, and interceptor trenches were installed to ensure it did not reach Towanda Creek. Excavation of contaminated soil began the evening of July 4 and is continuing, according to DEP.

DEP Oil and Gas and Environmental Cleanup program staff were on site Thursday collecting soil and water samples and continuing to monitor the cleanup, the news release noted.(1)

This was the statement released by Chief:

An HCL release of appx 4,700 gal­lons occurred at appx 1pm on July 4 at the Yoder well site in Leroy Twp, Brad­ford Co. The release was dis­cov­ered by per­son­nel on site. DEP and the Brad­ford County EMS were noti­fied and response mea­sures were imple­mented. It is impor­tant to note that the major­ity of the release, around 4,000 gal­lons was held to the ini­tial con­tain­ment area on the pad site. All pad sites are lined with a thick plas­tic so any inad­ver­tent release of flu­ids can be reme­died at the pad site. Appx 700–800 gal­lons left the ini­tial con­tain­ment area and trav­eled into a sed­i­ment pond, which is designed as an addi­tional safety mea­sure to con­tain any runoff from the pad site. Appx 50 gal­lons left the sed­i­ment pond but appears to have remained local­ized to a small plunge pool next to the sed­i­ment pond.

The appro­pri­ate clean up crews were quickly dis­patched and are on site work­ing. Addi­tional berms of pre­cau­tion­ary pro­tec­tion were put in place as crews were neu­tral­iz­ing and vac­u­um­ing the pond. The release was quickly con­tained and cleanup is near com­ple­tion. After cleanup is com­plete, any needed reme­di­a­tion efforts will be deter­mined and that work will begin.

There were no drilling or frac­ing oper­a­tions tak­ing place at the time of the release. Landown­ers in the imme­di­ate area were noti­fied, how­ever there was never an issue of safety.

The release is under inves­ti­ga­tion by Frac Tech, Chief and the DEP, but it appears that a valve on the back of the tanker con­tain­ing the HCL was found par­tially open which resulted in the release.

There is no evi­dence that any runoff entered Towanda Creek and all pH read­ings have been nor­mal. DEP and the Fish and Boat Com­mis­sion have been on site and, along with Chief, are con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor. There were a few dead min­nows observed, local­ized in the small plunge pool, but there was no evi­dence of HCL and nor­mal pH read­ings and live fish were noted fur­ther down­stream in the trib­u­tary that leads to Towanda Creek. And again, no evi­dence of any runoff into Towanda Creek. Chief and DEP will con­tinue to take read­ings and monitor.(2)

(1) Wilkes-Barre (PA) The Citizens’ Voice (Jul 6, 2012) – Acid spills off well pad

(2) StateImpact Pennsylvania (Jul 5, 2012) – 4,700 Gallons Of Acid Spill At Bradford County Drilling Site